This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind - We Are The Mighty
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This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind

Among the many planes flying sorties against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is a version of the C-130. No, not the AC-130 gunship – although that plane did help blow up a lot of ISIS tanker trucks according to a 2015 Military.com report.


Here we’re talking about the EC-130H Compass Call. And while the highly-modified cargo plane doesn’t have the firepower appeal of the AC-130, it brings a lot of lethal wizbangery to the fight.

Things can go pear-shaped even with the best-laid operational plans when comms are crystal clear. Commanders can issue orders, and subordinates receive them and report information up the line.

This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind
An EC-130H Compass Call prepares to taxi Dec. 5, 2016 at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia. The Compass Call employs a crew of roughly a dozen Airmen working together to jam Da’esh communications. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Andrew Park)

Now imagine being an ISIS commander who is unable to send orders to units, and concurrently, they can’t send you any information. You’re now fumbling around, and figuratively blind as a bat against the opposition.

When the anti-ISIS coalition comes, backed up by special operators and air power, pretty soon you find yourself in a world of coalition hurt.

According to an Air Force release, the EC-130H has been doing just that against ISIS. This plane is loaded with jamming gear that cuts off communications.

According to an Air Force fact sheet, it works with the EA-18G Growler, the F-16CJ Fighting Falcon, and the EA-6B Prowler. The plane, though, has been in service since 1983. It was first designed to help take down air-defense networks, usually by working with other planes like the F-4G Wild Weasel and the EF-111 Raven.

These are old airframes. The plane may have entered service in 1983, but the airframes are old.

“We have a 1964 model out here on the ramp and you run the gamut of issues from old wiring to old structural issues (and) corrosion. You find that many of the items on the aircraft have been on there for well over 20 or 30 years, and parts fail all the time. So the aircraft more often than not come down and they need us to fix it before it can fly again safely,” 1st Lt. John Karim, the Aircraft Maintenance Unit officer in charge with the 386th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, told the Air Force News Service.

This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind
OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM — An EC-130H Compass Call with the 398th Air Expeditionary Group takes off from a forward-deployed location for a mission in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Robert J. Horstman)

They might be old, they don’t make things go boom, but they still help kick some terrorist ass.

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This War of 1812 veteran saw the Battle of Gettysburg from his porch – then joined it

These days it’s hard to think of a veteran who could have served from WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. It’s happened, of course.


But imagine a veteran of the War of 1812 and the Mexican War fighting in the Civil War. That’s a span of more than 60 years — much longer than the 24 years that separated the beginning of WWII and the Vietnam War. Then again, during the 20th century, pivotal battles weren’t literally in our front yard.

An average 69-year-old might be happy to ride out his golden years from a rocking chair.

But not John Burns.

He fought in the War of 1812 and the Mexican War and even tried to work as a supply driver for the Union Army but was sent back to his home in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

He wasn’t too happy to be excluded from the war.

See, Burns already lived twice as long as the average American of the time and was ready to do more for his country. But Gettysburg was much further north than the Confederates could ever attack – or so he thought.

Burns was considered “eccentric” by the rest of the town. That’s what happens when you’re fighting wars for longer than most people at the time spent in school.

When Confederate Gen. Jubal Early captured the town, Burns was the constable and was jailed for trying to interfere with Confederate military operations. When the Confederates were pushed out of Gettysburg by the Union, Burns began arresting Confederate stragglers for treason.

His contributions to the Union didn’t end there.

On the morning of July 1, 1863, Burns watched as the Battle of Gettysburg began to unfold near his home. Like a true American hero, he picked up his rifle – a flintlock musket, which required the use of a powder horn – and calmly walked over to the battle to see how he could help.

This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind

He “borrowed” a more modern musket (now a long-standing Army tradition) from a wounded Union soldier, picked up some cartridges, then walked over to the commander of the 150th Pennsylvania Infantry and asked to join the regiment.

This time, he wasn’t turned away; but the 150th Pennsylvania commanders did send Burns to Herbst Woods, away from where the officers believed the main area of fighting would be.

They were wrong.

Herbst Woods was the site of the first Confederate offensive of the battle. Burns, sharpshooting for the Iron Brigade, helped repel this offensive as part of a surprise counterattack.

John Burns was mocked by other troops for showing up to fight with his antiquated weapon and “swallowtail coat with brass buttons, yellow vest, and tall hat.” But when the bullets started to fly, he calmly took cover behind a tree and started to shoot back with his modern rifle.

This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind

He also fought alongside the 7th Wisconsin Infantry and then moved to support the 24th Michigan. He was wounded in the arm, legs, and chest and was left on the field when the Union forces had to fall back.

He ditched his rifle and buried his ammo and then passed out from blood loss. He tried to convince the Rebels he was an old man looking to find help for his wife, but accounts of how well that story worked vary. Anyone fighting in an army outside of a uniform could be executed, but the ruse must have worked on some level–he survived his wounds and lived for another 9 years.

The Battle of Gettysburg was a major turning point in the Civil War. The Confederates would spend the rest of the war – two years – on the defensive.

As the poem “John Burns of Gettysburg,” written after the war by Francis Bret Harte, goes:

“So raged the battle. You know the rest. How the rebels, beaten and backward pressed, Broke at the final charge and ran. At which John Burns — a practical man — Shouldered his rifle, unbent his brows, And then went back to his bees and cows.”

Burns became a national hero after the battle. When President Lincoln stopped in the Pennsylvania town to deliver the Gettysburg Address, he asked to speak with Burns and met the veteran at his home.

He was photographed – a big deal at the time – and a poem was written about his life. A statue of Burns was erected at Gettysburg National Military Park in 1903, where it stands today.

This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind

The base reads “My thanks are specially due to a citizen of Gettysburg named John Burns who although over seventy years of age shouldered his musket and offered his services to Colonel Wister One Hundred and Fiftieth Pennsylvania Volunteers. Colonel Wister advised him to fight in the woods as there was more shelter there but he preferred to join our line of skirmishers in the open fields when the troops retired he fought with the Iron Brigade. He was wounded in three places. – Gettysburg report of Maj.-Gen. Doubleday.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Boeing T-X first official EMD flight test was ‘superb’

On July 1, 2019, Boeing announced that T-X aircraft N381TX flew the first official Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) flight test from Boeing’s St Louis plant in Missouri. Boeing did not disclose further details about this flight although the Chief T-X Test Pilot, Steve ‘Bull’ Schmidt, said: “She flew just superb. First EMD test points went off without a hitch”.


The aircraft is one of the two company-funded prototypes built for the Air Force T-X Advanced Pilot Training program and modified into the EMD design after the first flight test campaign. The two aircraft performed 72 test flights between December 2016 and December 2018, gathering data ahead of the EMD testing. During the last months, Boeing and Saab (rear fuselage supplier for T-X) modified the prototypes with ACES 5 ejection seat, an updated On-Board Oxygen Generation System (OBOGS) and other minor changes. Boeing is counting on completing the critical design review of the final EMD configuration by the end of 2019.

This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind

The two T-X prototypes in formation during a flight test.

(Boeing)


The U.S. Air Force awarded the $ 9.2 billion T-X contract to Boeing and Saab in September 2018 for 350 trainer aircraft, 46 ground-based training systems and related ground equipment, with other 125 aircraft on option.

The first five aircraft and seven simulators will be delivered to Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph (Texas) in 2023, with Initial Operational Capability (IOC) planned by the end of 2024 and Full Operational Capability (FOC) planned by 2034. The T-X trainer is due to replace the Northrop T-38 Talon, the world’s first supersonic and most produced jet trainer, that has been in service for over 50 years.

Boeing T-X Begins EMD Flight Tests

www.youtube.com

The new aircraft is powered by a single General Electric Aviation F404 engine (the same engine used by the Saab Gripen C/D and legacy F/A-18) and has a design similar to the F/A-18, with leading-edge root extensions (LERX) and twin tails that can provide high performance training for pilots that will fly US front-line fighters. The cockpit features a touchscreen large-area display (LAD), digital Up-Front Controller (UFC) and standby instruments, Hands On Throttle And Stick (HOTAS) controls and a low profile Head-Up Display (HUD), much like the F-35 cockpit or the proposed cockpits for Boeing’s F/A-18E/F Block III and F-15X and Saab’s Gripen E.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

popular

9 interesting reasons behind US military uniforms

Have you ever been sweating the details of an inspection or searching the rack at the PX and wondered how your branch’s uniforms came to be? Here are 9 reasons behind the uniforms in seabags and footlockers worldwide today:


1. Why are there three white stripes on a sailor’s jumper?

(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Petty Officer Seth Schaeffer/Released).

The three white stripes go back to the U.S. Navy’s origins and the service’s ties to the British Royal Navy. Each stripe represents one of Lord Nelson’s major victories (the wars of the First, Second, and Third Coalition, which included the Battle of Trafalgar).

2. What’s the flap for on the back of a sailor’s jumper?

This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind
(Photo: U.S. Navy, Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Scott Pittman)

Jumper flaps originated as a protective cover for the uniform jacket because sailors greased their hair to hold it in place. (In those days showering wasn’t an every day thing.) (Source: Bluejacket.com)

3. Where did a sailor’s black neckerchief come from?

This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind
(Photo: U.S. Navy)

The black silk neckerchief was originally a sweat rag. Black was chosen as the color because it didn’t show dirt. (Source: Bluejacket.com)

4. Why do sailor’s wear bellbottoms?

This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind
(Photo: U.S. Navy Historical Command)

Bellbottoms are easier to roll up than regular trousers, and sailors have always had occasion to roll pant legs up whether swabbing decks or wading through the shallows when beaching small boats. (Source: Bluejacket.com)

5. Why does the eagle face to the right on emblems?

This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind
World War II-era officer’s crest. (Photo: Navy archives)

The eagle on an officer’s crest actually faced left until 1940 when it was changed to conform with “heraldic tradition” that hold that the right side of a shield represents honor, while the left side represents dishonor.

6. Why is the Army Service Uniform blue?

This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind
Anybody know where we’re going? (Photo: U.S. Army, Eboni Everson-Myart)

The origin of the blue Army service uniform goes back to the earliest days of the nation when General George Washington issued a general order October 1779 prescribing blue coats with differing facings for the various state troops, artillery, artillery artificers and light dragoons. The Adjutant & Inspector General’s Office, March 27, 1821 established “Dark blue is the National colour. When a different one is not expressly prescribed, all uniform coats, whether for officers or enlisted men, will be of that colour.” (Source: Army.mil)

7. What is the meaning of the symbol on top of a Marine Corps officer’s cover?

This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind
(Photo: AntiqueFlyingLeatherneck.com)

The quatrefoil — the cross-shaped braid worn atop an officer’s cover— represents the rope pre-Civil War era officers wore across their caps to allow sharpshooters high in the rigging of a sailing ship to identify friend from foe in a shipboard battle.

8. What does the Marine Corps’ Eagle, Globe, and Anchor emblem represent?

This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind
(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

The eagle represents the United States. The globe represents the Corps’ willingness to engage worldwide. And the (fouled) anchor represents the association with the Navy as an expeditionary fighting force from the sea.

9. Why doesn’t the U.S. Air Force have much in the way of uniform traditions like the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps?

This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind
Somewhere in this picture is a four-star general. Nope, not her. Good guess though. (Photo: U.S. Air Force, Michael J. Pausic)

The USAF is a relatively young service, having been formed from the Army Air Corps after World War II. That lack of heritage has made creating meaningful uniform symbology a challenge, and Air Force leader’s attempts to improve uniforms have generally caused confusion or been met by the force with a lack of enthusiasm. In fact, at one point in the 1990s the Air Force actually had three authorized versions of the service dress uniform. The result of all of this has been a fairly straightforward (read “boring”) inventory of uniforms over the years.

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This was the most powerful explosion ever . . . by a lot

This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind
Model of the Tsar Bomba in the Sarov atomic bomb museum. Photo by Croquant


Russia’s Tsar Bomba is the single most physically powerful man-made explosion in human history. And it will probably remain that way forever.

On October 30, 1961, at 11:32 Moscow time, the 50 megaton behemoth detonated over the Mityushikha Bay nuclear testing range above the Arctic Circle. By comparison, the most powerful nuclear device ever detonated by the U.S. was the Castle Bravo hydrogen bomb over Bikini Atoll on March 1, 1954, which yielded the same energy as 15 megatons of TNT. The blast produced by the Tsar Bomba is the equivalent to about 1,350 – 1,570 times the combined energy of the atomic bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, according to John D. Bankston in his book “Invisible Enemies of Atomic Veterans and How They Were Betrayed.”

Or as the Discovery Channel video below puts it, “It contained the equivalent of 58 million tons of TNT or all the explosives used in World War II, multiplied by ten.”

This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind
A Russian Tu-95 Bear ‘H’ photographed from a RAF Typhoon Quick Reaction Alert aircraft (QRA) with 6 Squadron from RAF Leuchars in Scotland. Photo by Ministry of Defense

The explosion was so powerful that the modified Tupolev Tu-95 strategic bomber—Russia’s version of the B-52—was almost knocked out of the sky. The mushroom cloud it produced was about 40 miles high, over seven times the height of Mount Everest.

The bomb destroyed all the buildings in a village 34 miles away from ground zero and broke windows in Norway and Finland. The explosion’s heat caused third-degree burns on people 62 miles away. One test participant saw the flash through his dark goggles and felt the bomb’s pulse 170 miles away. The bomb’s shock wave was observed 430 miles from the ground zero, and its seismic activity was measurable even on its third passage around the Earth.

This Discovery Channel video shows rare footage of the Tsar Bomba’s detonation:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aMYYEsKvHvk

serasvictorias, YouTube

MIGHTY CULTURE

Army veteran is world-champion hoop dancer

The grassy hill surrounding the arena is packed full of spectators and family members. The emcee calls out a dancer’s name; there’s movement in the crowd. The competitor makes it into the arena, throws out his hoops for his sequence.

Upon the dancer’s cue, the drum starts singing. Bells on his ankles sing in time with each beat of the drum and each step he makes.

He has five minutes to convey a story, using small hoops as his medium to paint each scene, as part of the 28th Annual Heard Museum World Championship Hoop Dance Contest held in Phoenix in 2018.


“The competition opens everyone’s eyes to the Native American culture,” said Timothy Clouser, the museum’s facilities director and a Navy veteran. “I find it very fascinating how each dancer puts their own artistic expression in their dance and story they are trying to convey. Not one dance is the same.”

Brian Hammill, an Army veteran of the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin and a previous World Hoop Dance champion, competed in Phoenix. He uses his dancing to help bridge the cultural gap between Native Americans and non-natives, sharing his culture everywhere he goes.

“As native people, we don’t give gifts of objects because an object goes away, but we give the gift of a song, or a dance,” Hammill said. “When you do that, if you give somebody a song, and you tell them, ‘Every time you sing this song, you tell the story,’ or ‘Every time you do this dance, you tell the story and you give it away,’ that dance will last forever. That’s how this hoop dance carries on; it’s given from one person to the next.”

This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind

Army veteran Brian Hammill of the Ho-Chunk Nation applies face paint before grand entry at the 28th Annual Heard Museum World Championship Hoop Dance Contest at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona, Feb. 10, 2018.

(Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Anita C. Newman)

The hoop dance is different than other Native American dances, such as powwow dancing. Powwows are inter-tribal celebrations of Native American culture. Tribal affiliation doesn’t matter, nor does what region someone is from. It doesn’t even matter if someone is native or non-native.

Powwow dancing consists of at least six categories. Men’s categories include the fancy dance, grass dance and traditional dance. Women’s categories are the fancy dance, jingle dress and traditional dance.

The hoop dance regalia is minimal compared to that of the powwow dances. Typically, a hoop dancer will wear a shirt, breechcloth, side drops, sheep skin, bells (or deer hooves) and moccasins. The colors and designs are specific to each person. The hoops are small and vary in size, typically depending on the height of the dancer. Sometimes they have designs on them, again, specific to each dancer.

“Traditionally, the hoops were made out of willow, depending on where the tribe was located,” Hammill said. “I make mine out of a very exotic wood called plastic.”

The hoop dance has different origin stories with a common thread that it originated in the Southwest. To some native nations, the hoop dance is a healing dance, Hammill said. A hoop would traditionally be passed over an afflicted person, then the dancer would break that hoop and never use it again.

“Basically, it was a way of taking away all that pain or sickness away,” Hammill said. “That’s not done in public. There is also a story of the children, the Taos Pueblo children. It is said that the children saw this ceremony taking place and began to emulate what they saw. Instead of telling the kids, ‘No, you can’t do this,’ the adults encouraged them. They began to sing songs for them. They took what was a prayer and made it something the kids could do. So, basically, the dance changed, it evolved.

“In the north, it tells of a warrior’s journey,” he continued. “As you see these hoops come together, they start to make formations. You’ll see the eagle, the butterfly, the warrior on the battlefield defending his family, the clouds in the sky.”

Each person, he explained, will see that dance in a different way, interpret the story differently. There are hundreds of hoop dance stories, but each one revolves around the sacred circle of life.

“The significance of the hoops is that it represents the circle of life. There’s no beginning and no ending,” Hammill said. “We are taught that each and every one of us — doesn’t matter who we are, where we come from, the color of our skin — we are all created equal in that sacred hoop.”

Another part of Hammill’s culture that he lives every day is the tradition of service.

“The way I was always taught is, as a native person, we are always here to serve the people,” he said.

This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind

U.S. Army veteran, Brian Hammill of the Ho-Chunk Nation, competes at the 28th Annual Heard Museum World Championship Hoop Dance Contest at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona on Feb. 10, 2018.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Anita C. Newman)

“We serve them by cooking and providing food for them. We teach them, or protect them. One of the greatest things I was always taught that we do, is we put ourselves in harm’s way to protect our families and our identity. It was something I’ve always wanted to do, I felt I needed to do.”

Hammill enlisted in the Army while still in high school. He went to basic training during the summer between his junior and senior years, and went on active duty after graduation.

“It’s just something that we do,” he said. “You’ll find that throughout the United States, there are a higher percentage of native veterans per capita than any other race.”

While he was stationed in South Korea, one of his first sergeants learned that he had danced while growing up, and asked Hammill to share his culture with everyone. He performed the men’s fancy dance for his fellow soldiers.

“A lot of these soldiers weren’t exposed to different cultures, so he had me do one of my first presentations there,” he said. “I called my dad in Wisconsin, and he shipped all of my dance regalia to me. I started doing presentations for the people I was stationed with, and in different areas throughout the Korean theater. That’s where I really got the passion to share the story, and I found out how important it is.”

Hammill was introduced to the hoop dance prior to his transition out of the military in 1994. Back then, he would travel about 120 miles from Fort Polk, Louisiana, to Livingston, Texas, where he performed and danced with the Alabama-Coushatta tribe.

“A good friend of mine, Gillman Abbey, basically gave me this hoop dance,” he said. “He told me the story. He told me every time I dance, to always make sure I share the story, and give the dance.”

He said the hoop dance helped him heal from his time in service. Still brand new to hoop dancing, Hammill actually competed in the World Hoop Dance Championship for the first time about six months after he got out of the military.

“I was 24, in the adult division,” he said. “I remember I was scared because this is a huge competition. Some of the dancers I’m still dancing with today pulled me aside, said to me, ‘Hey, you’re doing good. Let me show you some different moves. Let me help you.’ I’ll never forget that because that’s what really kept me coming back. Being here, feeling that hoop and how it affects people, it keeps me coming back. It took me a long time, about 15 years, until I won my first world title. I moved to the senior division and won four more. But it’s a family. It really is something we all have in common.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

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10 back-to-school deals for military families

As summer camps wind to a close and kids make their final splashes at the pool, parents have one thing on their minds: back-to-school shopping.


But when you add up the cost of all the items on your kids’ classroom supply lists, backpacks, clothes and shoes, back-to-school is expensive! The following is a list of discounts to help military families get the kids off to school in style while staying within your budget.

This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Willis

1. Operation Homefront’s Back-to-School Brigade

Operation Homefront partners with Dollar Tree to collect school supplies for military children as part of their Back-to-School Brigade. Dollar Tree stores put out collection barrels from July 5 through August 11, and then Operation Homefront volunteers distribute them to military children at events throughout the country during the back-to-school season. Click here for more information and to find programs in your area.

2. Tax-Free Shopping Days

For a few days each year, some states offer a “sales tax holiday” right around back-to-school time when shoppers can buy specified items tax-free. This is a great way to save on back-to-school necessities like clothes, shoes, and other school supplies. To see if your state participates in the sales tax holidays, click here.

3. Clothing and Accessories

By the time summer is over, the kids have either outgrown all their school clothes or worn them ragged from vacation and camp. Update their wardrobe with new clothes and accessories using military discounts at Banana Republic, Claires, eBags, New York and Company and Old Navy. If you’re mall shopping, be sure to ask for a military discount in every store you stop in. Some malls, like the MacArthur Center in Norfolk, Virginia, offer military discounts in many of their stores. And outlets like Tanger Outlets offer discounts and free coupon books.

4. Shoes

No back-to-school wardrobe is complete without new shoes. So take advantage of the military discounts offered by Payless and Rack Room Shoes.

5. Classroom Supplies

Most schools now expect parents to help stock classroom supplies like pencils, crayons, notebooks, folders, scissors, glue, and binders, as well as necessities like tissues and hand sanitizer. Find these supplies and use military discounts as Michaels, Jo-Ann Fabric and AC Moore.

6. Backpacks and Lunch Bags

Looking for backpacks and lunch bags? Pottery Barn Kids has an adorable collection of both, and they offer a 15% in-store military discount.

7. Tutoring and Test Prep

Does your child need a little extra help with homework and studying?Tutor.com, where expert tutors are online 24/7, offers free tutoring for military families.

Do you have older kids getting ready for college testing? eKnowledge donates their SAT and ACT College Test Preparation Programs to service members and their families. You pay only a minimal price per standard program to cover the cost of materials, processing, distribution and customer service.

8. Computers

If you’re looking to buy a computer or other necessary electronics, check out the military discounts offered by Dell.

Need tech support? My Nerds offer military discounts as well.

9. Wireless Communication

AT&T Wireless, Boost Mobile, Sprint, US Cellular and Verizon all offer military discounts, so if you’re in the market for new cell phone plans to keep in touch with your active student, you have a great variety to choose from. (Some offer military discounts on devices and accessories as well.)

10. Exchange Price Match Policy

Don’t forget that the Navy Exchange (NEX), the Marine Corps Exchange (MCX) and the Army and Air Force Exchange (AAFES) all offer price matching. That means if you see a lower price for the same item at another store, bring proof to the Exchange and you can buy that item for the competitor’s price.

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This Air Force plane will be over 100 when it flies to the boneyard

The KC-135 Stratotanker, one of the oldest aircraft still flying in the US Air Force today, will likely get a life extension thanks to budget and replacement issues according to Gen. Carlton Everhart of Air Mobility Command, adding over 40 more years to its service record which began in the mid-1950s.


By the time this legendary aerial refueler enters retirement and is phased out from the USAF once and for all, it will have served just over 100 years — longer than any other aircraft in American history.  Having seen action in virtually every American-involved conflict since 1956, the Stratotanker is easily one of the most recognizable and beloved aircraft flying today with the Air Force.

The KC-135 was, at first, supposed to be replaced entirely by the Boeing KC-46 Pegasus. But thanks to budget cuts and slashes to the projected buy for the KC-46, the Air Force will be left with a shortage of tankers to carry out aerial refueling operations both at home and overseas, severely impacting the service’s ability to extend the range of the vast majority of its aircraft. Instead, the Air Force will be looking to upgrade its KC-135s into a “Super Stratotanker” of sorts, keeping it flying for 40 more years until the branch initiates the KC-Z replacement program to supersede the Stratotanker for good.

This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind
Crew members from the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron prepare to take off in a KC-135 Stratotanker before performing a refueling mission over Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve September 15, 2016. The KC-135 provides the core aerial refueling capability for the U.S. Air Force and has excelled in this role for more than 50 years — and could be on the flightline for another 40 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Douglas Ellis/Released)

The KC-46, the result of the controversial KC-X program, was destined to be a larger longer-range follow-on to the KC-135, featuring two engines instead of four, and greater fuel carriage capacity, allowing for more aircraft to be refueling during a typical mission than what the Stratotanker could handle. However, the program has been constantly plagued with a variety of issues including cost overruns and delays, which ultimately led to the Air Force scaling down the number of Pegasus tankers it originally planned on buying to just 179.

This pushes retiring the KC-135 out of the question, as the Air Force (and Air National Guard) require a greater number of tankers to continue carrying out their mission at home and around the world.

While the USAF will continue with its plans to field the Pegasus, the Stratotanker fleet’s life-extension seems inevitable. At the moment, the Air Force has already begun the $910 million Block 45 extension program, which seeks to keep these 60-year-old aircraft relevant and able to meet the needs of the modern Air Force. As part of the Block 45 updates, all American KC-135s will receive a new glass cockpit, replacing the older analog/gauge cockpits still in use, new avionics and an upgraded autopilot system, an enhanced navigation suite, and much more.

This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind
A KC-135 Stratotanker taxis down the flightline during an exercise March 2, 2017, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan. The KC-135 enhances the Air Force’s capability to accomplish its primary mission of global reach. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Tara Fadenrecht)

To keep the KC-135 flying for 40 more years, an advanced networking and electronic countermeasures suite would likely be the next upgrade the Air Force will pursue with the aircraft, during or after the completion of Block 45, which will end in 2028. Currently, the USAF estimates that their KC-135s have only used up around 35 percent of their lifetime flying hours, meaning that the aircraft is perfectly capable of flying on until 2040 with regular maintenance and scheduled overhauls.

As of 2014, there are 414 KC-135s in service with the US military — 167 assigned to the active duty Air Force, 180 to the Air National Guard, and 67 in the Air Force Reserve. Once the Air Force finishes procuring its 179 KC-46s, the number of Stratotankers in service will likely drop by 100 airframes, which will be retired to the boneyard at Davis Monthan AFB in Arizona.

It’s also probable that the KC-135’s current [younger] sister tanker, the three-engined KC-10 Extender, will receive a similar upgrade to keep its smaller fleet flying longer. Eventually, both of these aircraft will see their flying days come to an end with the initiation of the KC-Y and KC-Z next generation tanker programs, still decades away from coming to fruition.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Leaked documents reportedly show the CIA secretly bought an encryption company and used it to spy on clients — while turning a profit

In leaked documents, newly published by The Washington Post and ZDF, the CIA describes how it pulled off “the intelligence coup of the century:” for decades, a company that sold encryption devices to more than 120 countries was secretly owned and operated by the CIA itself.


The company, Crypto AG, was acquired by the CIA at the height of the Cold War. Through a classified partnership with West Germany’s spy agency, the CIA designed Crypto AG’s encryption devices in a way that let the agency easily decrypt and read all messages sent by the company’s clients.

Some details of Crypto AG’s coordination with US intelligence agencies had been previously reported — a 1995 investigation by The Baltimore Sun revealed that the National Security Agency reached an agreement with Crypto AG executives to secretly rig encryption devices. However, the newly-published CIA report unveils the full extent of the US’ operation of Crypto AG.

For decades, Crypto AG was the leading provider of encryption services. It boasted hundreds of clients ranging from the Vatican to Iran, generating millions of dollars in profits. The CIA maintained control over the company until at least 2008, when the agency’s confidential report obtained by The Post was drafted.

Crypto AG was liquidated in 2018, and its assets were purchased by two other companies: CyOne Security and Crypto International. Both have denied any current connection to the CIA, and Crypto International chairman Andreas Linde told The Post that he “feels betrayed” by the revelation.

“Crypto International and Crypto AG are two completely separate companies without any relationship,” a spokesperson for Crypto International said in a statement to Business Insider. “Crypto International is a Swedish owned company that in 2018 acquired the brand name and other assets from Crypto AG … We have no connections to the CIA or the BND and we never had.”

A representative for CyOne Security did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s requests for comment.

In a statement to Business Insider, CIA press secretary Timothy Barrett declined to confirm or deny the report, saying the agency is “aware of press reporting about an alleged U.S. government program and do not have any guidance.”

Crypto AG began selling encryption devices in 1940, marketing a mechanical device that was powered by a crank. The CIA reportedly purchased the company with a handshake deal in 1951, which was renewed with a secretive “licensing agreement” in 1960.

In the decades that followed, the CIA oversaw technical advances in Crypto AG’s devices, shifting to electronic devices. The company reportedly contracted with Siemens and Motorola to modernize its gadgets.

The CIA’s surveillance continued through the 1990s and 2000s, even as Crypto AG’s revenue began to dwindle. It was ultimately dissolved in 2018 and sold for between million and million, according to anonymous current and former officials quoted by The Post.

Read the full report by The Washington Post and ZDF here.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

Reagan taught US pilots how to recognize the Zero

Ronald Reagan probably helped save a number of lives on the front lines — and not because he was a big hero. In fact, Reagan’s eyesight was so bad, they kept him in the United States. But despite not being fit for front-line duty, Reagan still played his role for Uncle Sam.


While Reagan’s eyesight made him next to useless for combat, he did end up being involved in doing training films, one of which involved recognizing the Mitsubishi A6M Zero. Friendly fire has long been a problem — ask Stonewall Jackson.

And yes, friendly fire was a problem in World War II. The P-38 was hamstrung because someone mistook a C-54 for a Fw 200.

This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind
A6M2 Zero fighters prepare to launch from Akagi as part of the second wave during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

In this training film, “Recognition of the Japanese Zero,” Reagan portrayed a young pilot who had just arrived in the Far East. The recognition angle is hammered home, and not just because of the friendly-fire problem.

Reagan’s character studies silhouettes drawn by a wounded pilot who hesitated too long — and found out he was dealing with a Zero the hard way.

Even with the study, Reagan’s character later accidentally fires at a P-40 he misidentifies, greatly angering the other American pilot. However, when he returns, he takes his lumps, but all turns out okay when the other pilots realizes there is a Zero in Reagan’s sights from the gun camera footage.

Reagan’s character explains that he stumbled across the Zero, then after a dogfight (not the proper tactic against the Zero, it should be noted), Reagan’s character shoots down the Zero.

There’s a happy ending as the earlier near-miss is forgotten and the kill is celebrated.

This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind
Colin Powell briefing President Ronald Reagan in 1988. (Photo from Reagan Presidential Library)

The film is also notable in that it revealed to American pilots that the United States had acquired a Zero that had crashed in the Aleutians. The so-called Akutan Zero was considered one of the great intelligence coups in the Pacific Theater, arguably second only to the American code-breaking effort.

So, see a future President of the United States help teach American pilots how to recognize the Zero in the video below.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Watch: A National Guard Chaplain activated in Los Angeles shares his story

Over the last month, the United States (and parts of the world) erupted in protests after the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmuad Abery. While their deaths drew the ire of many Americans, they set off an angry and passionate reaction to the bigger problem of police brutality and systemic racism.

Unfortunately, protests can be marred by people taking advantage and the marches that have occurred in all 50 states have seen some people take to rioting and looting. While the vast majority of protests have been peaceful, the magnitude of people on the street and looting caused some states to activate their respective National Guard units.


Director and Army Veteran Robert Ham was able to link up with National Guard Chaplain Major Nathan Graeser who was part of a California National Guard Unit that was assigned to downtown Los Angeles. With the noise of protestors in the background demanding reform of police and the end of the systemic racism that plagues this country, Graeser talked about why the National Guard was there and the mood of the troops. When asked about the atmosphere in the area Graeser said, “Seeing this today, I kept thinking to myself… this is what makes America great.”

Mighty Talks | Chaplain Graeser

vimeo.com

In addition to being an Army Chaplain in the California National Guard, Nathan is also a social worker. He is an expert on programs and policies that support service members transitioning out of the military. Nathan is an advocate for veterans and leads multiple veteran initiatives in Los Angeles. He has spent thousands of hours counseling veterans and their families to deal with the challenges of service and returning home.

Graeser talks about the disconnections we have with one another, exacerbated by COVID-19 and how those disconnections flared up in the wake of these deaths. He knows, because he sees the same disconnection with his soldiers and with veterans as they themselves struggle to connect to the community they took an oath to serve.

But, Graeser said he sees the similarities between the young soldiers and young protesters, “These 19 year olds,” referring to the guardsmen, he said, “They are thoughtful, they are kind, even their interaction with the looters is as gentle as can possibly be.”

This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind

While the riots have been waning, the cries for action have not. What does the future hold for the rest of 2020 and beyond? We can only guess at this time.

But there is hope in what Graeser sees.

“We are out here to see what the next chapter is,” he shared. “One thing I know is wherever we go, we are going to need everybody.”

Articles

The famed Gurkha warriors have taken Everest

For the first time in history, currently serving Gurkha soldiers have summitted the tallest peak in the world, Mount Everest.


The team reached the summit on May 16 and received congratulations from the British Army on their achievement.

This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind
The Gurkha climbing team poses during the 2015 attempt that was eventually abandoned after a massive earthquake struck the Gurkhas’ homeland and destroyed the Everest base camp. (Photo: British Ministry of Defence)

The Gurkhas had previously attempted the climb the mountain in 2015 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Gurkha Brigade, but the climb was abandoned when a massive earthquake struck the area around the mountain, triggering an avalanche that destroyed the base camp.

The 2015 team abandoned the climb and rushed to aid those affected by the quake. Gurkhas are recruited out of a small region of Nepal that sits in the same mountain range as Everest, and many of the team members had immediate family affected by the quake.

This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind
Gurkha soldiers celebrate their successful climb of Mount Everest after they reached the summit on May 15,2017. (Photo: British Ministry of Defence)

They returned in 2017 thanks to a decision by the Nepal Ministry of Tourism to honor all 2015 Everest permits for an additional two years.

The climb is a grueling challenge under even the best of conditions. The base camp sits over three miles above sea level and each camp above that is more than half a mile above the previous camp.

The summit sits 5.5 miles above sea level, where the air is so thin that most climbers rely on bottled oxygen for much of the climb.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How Army engineers maintain the US’s northernmost military base in the world

Not too long ago at Thule Air Base, Greenland located in the Arctic, a change of command ceremony was taking place.

Outgoing 821st Air Base Group US Air Force Commander — Col. Mafwa Kuvibidila — passed the flag to her successor Col. Timothy J. Bos.

In her outgoing speech, Kuvibidila thanked everyone in the audience for supporting her during her command. This included members of the US Army Corps of Engineers, New York District.


These ceremonies happen every few years, but what’s been consistent at the base is the Army Corps’ presence. For over half a century, the Army Corps has performed construction for the base. Presently, it’s consolidating the base by 40% to save energy, tax-payer money and to sustain its readiness.

Kuvibidila, who managed the base for the past year, understands the importance of consolidation.

She said, “For Thule it’s a matter of looking at the best way to use the infrastructure currently on base, and what is needed to support it to maximize resources.”

This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind

Thule Air Base in Greenland.

(US Army Corps of Engineers)

Thule, Air Base Mission

Thule pronounced “Two Lee” is Latin for northernmost part of the inhabitable world. Thule Air Base is located in the northwestern corner of Greenland, in a coastal valley 700 miles north of the Arctic Circle and 950 miles south of the North Pole.

The base is the United States’ northern most military installation that has the responsibility of monitoring the skies for missiles in defense of the United States and its allies.

For over half a century, the base has been home to active-duty Air Force members who live and work in this remote Arctic environment to perform National security.

Throughout this time, the Army Corps under extreme weather conditions and less daylight hours, has helped the base fulfill its mission by constructing many structures including several dormitories, an aircraft runway and surrounding apron and taxiways, and a medical facility.

Now the Army Corps is helping once again, by consolidating and modernizing the base’s infrastructure.

In the early 1950s, the base’s main mission was to be an aircraft refueling stop. It was home to 10,000 personnel, US military troops, as well as a support staff comprised of Danish and Greenlandic national people.

During the Cold War Era, the base’s mission changed and it is now home to less personnel that are mainly performing early missile warnings and space surveillance for the United States.

The base has many buildings spread out over the entire base. Many of these buildings are still in use, but have become severely weatherworn and energy and fuel is being wasted to heat them. They are also a distance from the base’s central power plant that requires maintaining long pipes to transport heat to them.

Many of these old buildings are being demolished and new buildings are being constructed closer together to make them easier to reach and to save energy.

This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind

A contingency dorm that will provide living quarters for the over-flow of visitors at Thule Air Base, June 2019.

(US Army Corps of Engineers/JoAnne Castagna)

Base Consolidation

The US Military has been on a mission to save energy and costs. Because of this, the U.S. Air Force tapped into the expertise of the Army Corps to consolidate the base. “This includes demolishing old facilities and constructing new ones that will be situated or consolidated more centrally near the hub of the base where the airfield, hangars, dining facility, hospital and runway are located,” said Stella Marco, project manager, New York District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Army Corps is performing this work in partnership with two Army Corps agencies that have expertise in performing construction in an Arctic environment — the Cold Regions Research Engineering Lab and the US Army Corps of Engineers Engineer Research Development Center.

Kuvibidila recalls the consolidation work that she witnessed during her command. “There were multiple projects being worked on during my time at Thule from a new dorm, to finalizing new consolidated facilities for vehicle maintenance and supplies, along with various power projects,” she said.

The main structures that are being constructed are dormitories for non-commissioned officers who are on temporary duty and contingency lodging for the overflow of visitors, scientists, re-fueling operation crews, contractors, maintenance operations specialists and temporary duty personnel.

Recently, the Army Corps completed the construction of three, multi-story high rise dormitories for non-commissioned officers. Currently, construction is ongoing on the upgrade and renovation of two additional dormitories and 636 existing dorm rooms.

Marco said that the older dorms were the “gang-latrine” types, where a person staying at Thule would be assigned an individual room that contained the amenities of a bed, television, desk and a closet, however, all showers and toilet areas were located down a hall, in one area, that would require the guest to walk down through a public hallway to use.

She said the new dorms were constructed more into suites or modular units and are more conducive to privacy and to providing proper rest, relaxation and personal well-being.

A module consists of two or four individual bedrooms that lead into a centralized living area along with a partially shared bathroom. Modules provide some degree of privacy for the officers. Additionally, each floor has a common kitchen and dining area for residents to gather in.

Also contingency lodging is also being renovated to provide living quarters for the over-flow of visitors.

This involves renovating some of the existing old fashioned, trailer-like living quarters named “flat-tops” currently occupied by Danish and Greenlandic support staff and contractors that work on the installation.

In addition to new living quarters being constructed and renovated, the aircraft runway was just reconstructed and repaved in asphalt as were the surrounding aprons and taxiways.

“The runway is the lifeline to Thule Air Base since the waterways are only passable by sealift from July to mid-September,” said Marco.

“By using lessons learned of Arctic construction, the latest knowledge of constructing in permanently frozen ground called permafrost, along with the latest construction and paving practices, has allowed the Army Corps to build the best new runway possible,” said Marco.

This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind

Thule Air Base from the top of a nearby mountain, June 2019.

(US Army Corps of Engineers/JoAnne Castagna)

Working on the runway was challenging due to the extreme weather conditions.

Paving the 10,000 foot long runway was performed in three phases — one each year — because the construction season was limited from June through mid-September. Half the runway was paved one year and the other half was paved a second year.

“Since only half the runway was available each year for pilots to use, they had to be able to land and stop their aircraft on 4,000 feet of paved area. During this time, mainly C-130 Aircraft were used because of its ability to stop in such a short span,” said Marco.

Another challenge was to lay the asphalt during the warmest temperatures possible. Asphalt cannot be paved in cold temperature because it will not adhere properly and will fail. To read more about constructing in the Arctic, please see the sidebar “Construction Challenges in the Arctic.”

Other facilities constructed to consolidate the base include a consolidated base supply and civil engineering facility to house the maintenance shops, including sheet metal, painting and carpentry, and a new vehicle maintenance equipment storage facility.

These new and renovated buildings are going to be heated with an upgraded heating system.

Thule’s central power plant provides the base’s electricity and heating. Over the last few years, the Army Corps has provided the plant new energy-efficient exhaust gas heat recovery boilers and engines.

With this new equipment, the Army Corps is creating a new steam distribution system that will provide heat to most of the base.

These new engines create substantial surplus heat. This excess heat is going to be turned into steam that will be piped — by new pipes — to other buildings on the base. When the steam reaches the other buildings, it will be converted into hot water to be used for heat.

All of this consolidation work is needed to maintain readiness on the base. Kuvibidila said it is more important than ever before to improve base readiness. She said, “The current primary focus of the base is to support space, science, and allied operations and being able to continue that support will be critical.”

This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind

A window view from one of the dormitories at Thule Air Force Base, June 2019. Mount Dundas is in the distance.

(US Army Corps of Engineers/JoAnne Castagna)

Side Bar: Construction challenges in the Arctic

Arctic construction can be challenging due to severe weather and limited daylight, which requires the use of unique building materials, techniques and fast-paced construction.

Most of northern Greenland is covered with permafrost, which is permanently frozen ground — ranging from 6 feet to 1,600 feet in depth.

This requires structures to be constructed with a special elevated Arctic foundation. If buildings are not constructed off of the ground, the heat from inside the building can melt the permafrost, making the ground unstable and causing buildings to sink.

Buildings are elevated 3 feet from the ground with the use of spread footings that go down about 10 feet deep and concrete columns that come up and support the floor system above the ground.

Construction takes place during the summer and autumn months when the temperature is a “balmy” 40 degrees Fahrenheit. In the winter, temperatures can be as low as minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit.

It is also during the summer and autumn months that there is sufficient daylight.

Because of Thule’s proximity to the North Pole, the region has 24 hours of sunlight from May through August and 24 hours of darkness from November through February.

The less cold temperatures make it possible to break up the iced shipping lanes. This allows cargo ships into port supplied with fuel and construction materials.

Building materials include concrete foundations, insulated steel and metal walls, roof panels and prefabricated parts so that the workers can perform construction rapidly.

When the winter season begins, workers begin interior construction. This work includes constructing mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protection systems that are designed to withstand extreme frigid sub-zero temperatures.

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